Meet Ubooly

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When I was five my very best friend was an imaginary cat named Cubby. We spent hours together hunting for mice in the backyard and getting in to all kinds of mischief. It’s interesting to think that when I have kinds of my own, they may have no need for imaginary friends! While the Tamagotchi and Furby were huge leaps towards changing the way that kids communicate and interact with toys, today I read about a new toy called Ubooly that truly amazed me.

Ubooly is like Suri for kids! It’s a stuffed animal that has a slot to slide in an iPhone, iPad or Android device. You download a free app where you can record your child’s name and interests. The device will then interact with your child. It tells stories, answers questions and plays games. Pretty amazing stuff!

ImageIt will be interesting to see what type of impact modern toys have on the communication and social skills of our new generation of tech savvy kids. Will interactive toys help kids to develop and practice communication skills earlier, therefore helping them to be better prepared for the world? Do modern toys hinder creativity and imaginative play since kids no longer have a need to invent their own fun? What do you think?

 Learn more about Ubooly here: https://www.ubooly.com/

Staying in Touch

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The world is a big place, but everyday it’s getting smaller and smaller with the help of new technology. It’s amazing how easy it has become in communicate and stay in touch with friend and family; even through we are spread across the country and the globe. With the abundance of cell phones and easy access to Internet, connecting across miles via verbal and written words is common practice. Community visually is even becoming commonplace with the popularity of Skype and Face Time. I often find myself feeling lucky to be living in such an amazing time for communication.

Despite how easy it is to stay connected, there are some times where the tools currently available just aren’t enough. I received a phone call from a West Coast friend last week letting me know that her dad, who has been battling cancer for a few years, took a turn for the worse. His battle is nearing an end and she is faced with the reality of letting him go. Even though I am miles away, she knows I am always here to listen and for support, but at that moment I was at a loss to find the right words to express my sympathy. I just wanted to reach through the phone and hug her to let her know that it will be ok. There is so much power in human touch and it can communicate a sense of emotion that sometime words cannot accurately capture.

ImageA new device call BOND recognizes the power and value of communicating via touch and is working to make it a reality! BOND is a small touch module that comes in a form of a pair of bracelets or pendants. You wear one and give one to a friend. When one person touches their device, the other person can feel it.

ImageI’m not sure if this will be a communication staple of the future, but it’s certainly interesting to see companies valuing and exploring the power of different modes of connecting. If you’re interested in learning more, check out BOND’s fundraising on Indiegogo here.

The Joy of Nod!

ImageEver since my nephews Beckett and Griffin was born, I’ve become obsessed with children’s toys. I may have I started out hunting for the cutest new toys for them, but I quickly found myself buying adorable plush creatures for myself. There is something about the whimsy and creativity instilled the design of toys that can bring a joyful smile to young and old alike.

Last week I jumped for joy when the holiday catalog for Land of Nod arrived in the mail. From rocket ship tents to raccoon plush toys, I have a feeling my Christmas wish list will have a lot of overlap with my nephews’!

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If you’ve checked out the site and have fallen in love too, you’ll be as thrilled as I was to learn that you can win a giant, handmade plush made by some of their featured artists. My favorite is the giant princess yeti by designer Michelle Romo. It’s adorable!! Enter here  by December 12th.

Fall

Imagephoto: pickles

Fall in New York is a magical time of year. There is something about it that awakens a creative spark in me. Maybe it the beauty of the changing colors of the leaves. Perhaps it’s the crisp, cool air carrying the sweet, smoky scent of the first fireplace logs of the season. I can’t exactly place my finger on it, but there is something about the season that makes me light up and generates urgency to create. Two years ago, inspired by the fall, I decided to delve into a new hobby…knitting! It seemed like the perfect way to fulfill my desire for a crafty activity, as well as embrace the changing weather.  I found a group of patient co-workers who kindly spent many lunches teaching me the basics and soon I was hooked! Since then, every year when the leaves start to change and the air becomes cool, I get excited to whip out by bag of yarn and start a new project. I started by creating gloves and hats for my friends. I even challenged myself to make a sweater for my nephew, but the thing I look most forward to making is always my first  scarf of the season.

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It’s amazing how much a scarf can say when you take a moment to listen. A lightweight knit wrapped tightly around my neck always provides me a sense of warmth and comfort like a swaddled baby craving the security of a mom’s hug. A thick chunky knit automatically brings back my childhood excitement of getting bundled up to the point where you can barely move before going out to play outside on a snow day off from school.

Wishing you warmth and creative excitement as you bundle up this fall!

Poked by a Touchscreen

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I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 18 years, but 6 years ago I made the commitment to go from a meat-free diet consisting of strictly chocolate, diet coke, pasta and cheese to one that actually consumes leafy greens. Just a few weeks into “Operation Popeye”, I discovered that eating healthy is an ambitious feat when one is both extremely busy and, more importantly, culinarily challenged.  Today I’m finally well into a healthy eating routine, but it’s still tough to find a balance and stay committed when the Easy Mac in the pantry is calling out to me. After a long day at work and faced with a tittering tower of homework assignments, the idea of finding the time to cook a meal that is quick, healthy and appetizing is enough to put me spiraling on the verge of a full-time working, grad school student meltdown. In an attempt to maintain both my and his sanity, my husband and I eat out almost every night and over the years we’ve been able to find a number of local joints the offer quick, healthy and affordable options. One of our go-to dinners on the go is Chop’t, an amazing New York and DC based salad company.


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Their salads are fresh and delicious, but my favorite part is the variety of options and tasty dressings! After becoming a loyal customer who stops in a few times a week, I came to the observation that there are two types if Chop’t customers: 1. The Lettuce Loyalists and 2. The Nutrition Newbies.

The Lettuce Loyalists at those who have eaten at the restaurant enough times to be able to recite the menu inside out on command. They know how spicy the creamy sriracha dressing is. They know that if you swap out egg whites instead of cheese it will cost you extra. They can even explain to you what a rattlesnake poll bean is. The Nutrition Newbies, on the other hand, may have just recently decided to give salad a real try. Excited by, yet overwhelmed by the wide array of options, they typically wait in line staring doe-eyed at the menu for 15 minutes before finally working up the courage order whatever the employees recommend.

During the weekday, I usually visit during peak lunch/dinner hours and I’ve noticed that an interesting thing happens when the line begins to swell. A divide grows between the loyalists and the newbies. The newbies would love you have just a moment to wrap their head around the myriad of options overwhelming their senses without having the sound of snarky comments about their ability to read echoing behind them. The loyalist, knowing exactly what they planned on ordering when they first joined the back of the line, would love to push past the newbies and take the express route to the chopping station as they run low on both fuel and patience. While I’m usually the one ready to run to the front of the line, it was interesting to empathize with the newbie experience when I took my dad with me for the first time. His typically vegetable intake usually ends with canned corn, so he was so excited by the new and exciting vegetable options. Overwhelmed though, he ended up just having me pick his salad and order for him. After living the ordering experience though his eyes, I left wondering if there was a design solution that could enhance the ordering experience of the diverse customer base that Chop’t attracts.

I pondered on the odd social predicament for quite some time, until I happened upon my eureka moment in the most ironic of places…Sheetz (a chain of gas station/convenience stores located in Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania)

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My one exception to living the “Operation Popeye” way of life is when I’m on a road trip. When I’m in a car for 8 hours driving to visit family in PA, nothing excites me more than the prospect of crossing the NY/PA boarder and entering the land of fried pickles, breakfast burrito bowls and cheesy fries all at the touch of a button…that was it!! At the touch of a button!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JFeBCroiOvs

Sheetz is nothing like the typical gas station convenience stores I’m used to in New York & CT. They have a full-menu fast food restaurant and even an espresso bar. What truly sets them apart is their touchscreen menus!  When you walk in, you place your entire order via touchscreen and then take your printed ticket to the register to pay before picking up your food when it’s ready. Touchscreen ordering is quick, easy, efficient, and accurate, but even more surprisingly it’s also fun. While this set up works extremely well for a fast food restaurant (I’ve even heard that McDonalds has been prototyping the idea) I can only image how well it could improve the customer experience at a company like Chop’t where the experience is all about giving the customer options and control.

This could be the perfect solution to mend the fences and unite Chop’t loyalists and newbies. The loyalists could beat the line by going straight to the touchscreen menu to quickly pop in their order with ease and speed. The newbies would have a new tool to be able to take their time look through all of the extensive menu options and learn more information about the exotic and seasonal vegetable offerings. Its just makes too much sense. Mass transit systems have ticket kiosks. Banks have ATMs. Even modern movie theaters offer touch screen ticketing booths. Why should restaurants (especially ones with complex menus) not offer the same? In addition, Chop’t already offered online ordering services powered by Seamless Web so the transition to touch screen would be a natural one for many customers. It could even be as simple as having an online ordering app available for access on iPads mounted for customer access.

How might you enhance the customer ordering experience?

What is Communication?

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I’ve long considered myself to be a communications professional and facilitator, but it wasn’t until I decided to go back to school to pursue my master degree in Strategic Communications that I was first asked to truly consider the question: “What exactly is communication?”

We’re all trained since childhood to naturally think of communication as a verbal interaction between individuals, but the true core of the concept is so much more complex. Working in production management in the feature film industry, I communicate through words all day long. A typical workday consists of a mad flurry of juggling phone calls, emails, meetings, reports, etc. While I work in words all day long, as an artist and designer at my core, I’ve always felt more comfortable corresponding through visuals. As an athlete, I communicate with my teammates through movement. As an ardent consumer of baked goods, I share stories through taste and smell.  I came to the conclusion that communication is simply the way in which we interact with the world around us. Whether intentional or not, we’re all communicating every moment of our consciousness.

The purpose of this blog is to capture observations of how others and I communicate with the world around us. I hope to gain a better understanding of the dynamic nature of communication and in doing so learn how to design solutions that shape and improve our experience with the world.